Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Science


Epidemiology and Biostatistics


Speechley, M.

2nd Supervisor

Forchuk, C.



Background: Prevalence of methamphetamine use is rising in North America. Peers and social relationships are known to influence substance use patterns, but fewer studies have examined the role of early initiation on later social integration. We aimed to understand the relationship between age of first use and social integration.

Methods: Bivariate analyses were performed to assess the relationship between age of first use and social integration before performing a sex-based analysis. Multivariable linear regressions were used to help to understand this relationship.

Results: There was no significant association between age of first use and social integration scores for the sample. Sex, age of first use, and the interaction between the two were not significantly associated with social integration scores.

Conclusions: Researchers and those working with current or past methamphetamine users should perform larger population-based studies to better address the gap in the literature between social integration and age of first methamphetamine use.

Summary for Lay Audience

Methamphetamine, also referred to as ‘speed’ or ‘ice’, is a stimulant; a type of drug that allows people to feel more awake and alert. Methamphetamine is a growing public health concern, as its use is becoming more common in North America. Use of methamphetamine can lead to a wide range of physical and mental health complications. These complications can be short-term or long-term, depending on the dosage and duration of use. Researchers have noted that the average age of first use occurs between the ages of 19 to 21, during the transition period between late adolescence and early adulthood. It is important to understand factors associated with methamphetamine use because early drug use is associated with more health-related problems.

Traditional social roles (e.g., being an employee, spouse, parent etc.) can influence an individual to start using substances. Adolescents in particular, are often influenced by their peers. Drug use disorders are impacted by social roles and social integration. Poor social integration and fewer social roles increase the risk of developing drug use disorders compared to those with better social integration and more social roles.

This study analyzed data from the Methamphetamine Harm Reduction study, which is aimed at introducing harm reduction strategies in hospitals for people who use methamphetamine. We used quantitative methods to assess the potential relationship between age of first methamphetamine use and social integration. The literature aided us in choosing additional factors associated with methamphetamine use including sex, ethnicity, education level, quality of life and other scales of community integration.

We found no evidence of a relationship between social integration and age of first methamphetamine use. Both high school and college/university/trade school education were associated with greater social integration scores compared to those whose highest level of education was grade school. Upon performing a sex-based analysis, we found no evidence of a relationship between age of first use and social integration scores. Our study is one of the first to look at how age of first use affects social integration. Larger population-based studies should be conducted to better address this gap in the literature.

Available for download on Sunday, December 31, 2023